Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction Syndrome (also known as TMD) is a condition that affects the temporomanidibular joint or TMJ, which is part of your jaw. The joint is the connection between the jaw and the temporal bones of the skull, located in the frontal portion of each ear. The joint is what enables you to move your jaw up and down and side to side, allowing you to perform motions such as talking or chewing.
What causes TMJ disorders?
The exact cause of TMD is undetermined. Many dentists believe its symptoms are the result of problems caused by jaw muscles or parts of the joint.
Sustaining injuries from hard impacts or whiplash can cause damage to the jaw or the surrounding muscles in the head and neck, leading to TMD. Other factors that can lead to the condition include:
- Arthritis affecting the joint
- Movement of the disc located between the joint’s ball and socket
- Excessive clenching and grinding of teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the joint
- Tightening of facial and jaw muscles due to stress
Symptoms of TMD
People with TMD often experience severe pain and discomfort. This pain can sometimes be temporary, or it can last for several years, affecting one or both sides of the face.
According to some studies, TMD is more common in women than men, and it usually affects those between the ages of 20 to 40.
Common symptoms of TMD include the following:
- Pain or discomfort whenever you open your mouth wide
- Jaws locking in place, either when closing or opening the mouth
- Problems experienced when chewing, as if the upper and lower part of the mouth are misaligned
- Swelling on either side of the face
- Popping or clicking sounds or sensations while opening or closing the mouth
- Fatigue felt in the facial area
- Pain or soreness in the face, jaw, neck, shoulders, or near the ear when talking, chewing, or opening the mouth
Some people with TMD also report having headaches, neck aches, toothaches, problems with hearing, and upper shoulder pain.
Chiropractic care for treating TMD
Chiropractic treatment can help those with TMD by alleviating pain through correcting misalignment problems between the spine and the nervous system.
Compared to other methods of treating TMD, chiropractic care can be a very effective alternative as it can help muscles relax, adjust joints properly, and accurately reposition the jaw, rather than relying on teeth modification or diet modification.
Successful chiropractic treatment for TMD will not only provide temporary pain relief, but can completely prevent the condition from reoccurring. Chiropractic treatment centered on the TMJ aims to relieve muscle tension in the areas surrounding the joints, both inside and outside of the mouth.
A chiropractor will be able to manipulate trigger points (which are made of muscle fibers), to alleviate pain caused by TMD. If the TMD is caused by misalignment of the neck and the upper back, a chiropractor can perform manipulations on the spinal joint affecting these areas. In addition to chiropractic care, massage therapy may be effective in relieving tight muscles in the back of the spine, which reduces amount of stress in the jaw.